Deceptive advertising, Search engines, Microsoft Bing, Google
Consumer Protection Law
In advertisements associated with its "Bing It On" campaign, Microsoft claimed that "people preferred Bing web search results nearly 2:1 over Google in blind comparison tests." We tested Microsoft's claims by way of a randomized experiment involving U.S.-based Amazon's. Mechanical Turk ("MTurk") subjects and conducted on Microsoft's own www.bingiton.com website. We found that (i) a statisticallysignificant majority of participants preferred Google search results to Bing search results (53% to 41%); and (ii) participants were significantly less likely to prefer Bing results when randomly assigned to use popular search terms or self-selected search terms instead of the search terms Microsoft recommends test-takers employ on its website. Our findings suggest that some of the claims implicit in Microsoft's advertisements warrant legal scrutiny. The Bing It On Ad Campaign may be viewed as (falsely) implying that: (i) Microsoft's claims about consumer preferences for search engines were based on a generalizable study; (ii) the preferences of five million individuals who have taken the Bing It On Challenge online are either consistent with or the basis for Microsoft's claim that consumers prefer Bing "nearly 2:1"; and (iii) the search terms Microsoft recommends people use when taking the online challenge are not biased in favor of Bing. Our findings suggest that each of these implicit claims is likely false and might provide the basis for a viable Lanham Act claim by Google.
Ian Ayres, Emad Atiq, Sheng Li, Michelle Lu, "A Randomized Experiment Assessing the Accuracy of Microsoft's "Bing It On" Challenge, 26 Loyola Consumer Law Review 1-24 (2013)